Saturday, July 16, 2011

Catching up ponders Bubba Starling's future

Bruce Feldman suspended and reinstated amid ESPN stupidity: So Bruce Feldman -- who is probably the most straight-laced, professional and well-read college football writer ESPN has among its ranks of Mark Schlabachs -- was suspended indefinitely on Thursday for his role as compiler/editor/ghostwriter in Mike Leach's autobiography, which came out earlier this week.

Leach's lawsuit related to Craig James' totally unbiased on-air analysis of the whole James-kid-in-a-shed situation obviously puts ESPN in an awkward position, but here's the problem:
Multiple management and editorial sources at ESPN have told me in recent months that Feldman would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management -- which Feldman indeed received.
Yeah, he had permission.

I would skewer ESPN's ridiculous hypocrisy, but Spencer Hall from EDSBS went ahead and took care of that in typically awesome fashion:
The adults are not in charge. If the adults were in charge, they would have known what an employee with an existing book agreement with Leach meant. They would have either compensated him for the busted deal or simply allowed this to proceed. ...

There are brilliant people at ESPN, and there are those ticks who have been on the dog so long they think they're the ones you're saying "Good boy!" to after a successful fetch.
Outstanding. Maybe even better was ESPN's official statement on Friday, which basically said, "we hear your outcry and will revise history accordingly."
"There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments."
So he was never suspended, and he has now resumed his assignments. Intriguing.

I'm actually pretty interested to check out that book, which (according to Hall, at least) includes extensive documentation of the various emails and memos that back Leach's claims of sabotage at Texas Tech and obliterates Joe Schad's regurgitation of various statements from Craig James' PR firm (press-release journalism at its finest). Fittingly for ESPN, all the media coverage of this hilariousness has helped "Swing Your Sword" move up to No. 4 on Amazon's list of best-selling sports books.

Karma, baby.

Tyler Gabbert's Louisville tenure ends after a week: Well, that was a short and uninspiring stay. Tyler Gabbert (Blaine's little bro) enrolled at Louisville last week after transferring at Missouri, but he was barely in town long enough to check into a hotel before reconsidering:

According to multiple sources, including Jason Anderson of ESPN Radio 680, former Missouri quarterback Tyler Gabbert has left the Louisville football team and no longer plans on being a member of the program.

A source told me this afternoon that Gabbert, who had been in Louisville for less than a week, left this morning to return home and has no plans to come back. According to Anderson and co-host Andy Sweeney, Gabbert would like to re-join the team at Missouri, but the Tiger staff is not interested. Mizzou recently received a commitment from highly touted Class of 2012 QB Maty Mauk.
Choosing Louisville never made much sense in the first place -- Gabbert would've had to sit out this year (his redshirt freshman season) and then try to beat out big-time recruit Teddy Bridgewater in 2012, by which point Bridgewater would probably have a year of starting experience. He left Mizzou because he was nominally second on the depth chart behind redshirt sophomore James Franklin after struggling in spring ball, and with Mauk now in the fold as the heir apparent, the staff at Mizzou has no need for an in-between guy.

So Gabbert's left himself without any options for the time being, and he's only got a couple weeks to enroll before fall camps kick off; the one thing he has going for him is that reasonably talented quarterbacks (at least the non-crazy ones) usually don't have too much trouble finding a home.

Bubba Starling likely to pick baseball: There was a very brief period earlier this week when Nebraska fans had their hears aflutter amid reports that uber-recruit Bubba Starling would be joining the team for summer conditioning. I imagine the corn farmers reacting sort of like teen girls in the '60s when The Beatles would roll into town.

Four-star Midwestern boys are sooooo dreamy.

Anyway, their excitement is probably all for naught. ESPN's Keith Law maintains that Starling's enrollment at Nebraska is just a backup-plan negotiating ploy to get a little more money out of the Royals -- who took Starling fifth overall in the MLB draft last month -- and executive editor Jason Churchill backs him up with a pretty good argument that emphasizes the financial reality of the situation:
"I'm betting Starling signs. He risks getting nothing in the future if he gets injured, and the potential for hard slotting in the baseball draft means this is his best chance at the big payday. He's likely to get upwards of $6 million, a number he won't touch in any future draft of either sport unless he staves off injury and lack of development and becomes a first-round pick in the NFL, or improves his baseball stock and is the No. 1 overall selection in 2014. None of the above is very likely, and he was selected by the club ... that represents Starling's hometown preference."
Unless Starling is the opposite of Drew Henson and loves football so much that he just can't envision himself doing anything else, the combined risk of injury and massive financial sacrifice makes it seems pretty unlikely that he'll turn down a guarantee of somewhere between $3 million and $6 million to play for the team he grew up rooting for just a half-hour outside of Kansas City. He has until August 15 to sign with the Royals -- if he doesn't, he'll have a very interesting choice between a full-time commitment to football and a split schedule that'd give him a shot at moving up in the 2014 MLB draft (the next time he'd be eligible).

Sean Bedford is less than thrilled with the NCAA: After hearing that the NCAA stripped Georgia Tech of its 2009 ACC title on Friday because of Demaryius Thomas' $312 worth of improper benefits, Sean Bedford -- an All-American center on that team -- wrote an open letter to the NCAA that was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

His well-thought-out but appropriately confrontational message perfectly summarizes the way fans, players and other people with common sense (read: not the NCAA) feel about vacated wins:

Thank you for handing down penalties that only adversely affect the players who did things the right way. This reeks of an organization desperate to prove that it has some sort of control over its member institutions despite lacking the ability and firepower to police the serious offenders and protect the student-athletes whose interests you purport to have at heart.

While I realize that all violations merit some kind of punishment, I have a hard time grasping the notion that one of the proudest moments in my life (and the lives of every other individual that was a part of the team and program in 2009) is apparently worth $312 in your eyes. If that truly is the case, I'd be happy to provide you with that same amount of money (cash or check, your choice) in exchange for the reinstatement of the title my teammates and I earned through our blood, sweat and tears.

Well said. And there's a lot more good stuff in there, specifically:

I'll be wearing my championship ring with pride and if you want that too, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead finger.
OK then.


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